Last Thursday afternoon (8th Feb) statements during the Second Stage debate in Dáil Éireann, of the much anticipated, Public Health Alcohol Bill were heard.
Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) have expressed deep disappointment with contribution of local TDs to the Bill.
Ina statement to Sligo Today
the campaigning group say, "The Bill, which has been over six years in development, and frequently delayed by industry lobbying, aims to establish a modest pattern of reduction in alcohol consumption that will sustain better public health outcomes and less alcohol related harms for our children, families and communities.
In their contribution, local Deputies Eamon Scanlon (FF) and Assistant Government Whip, Tony McLoughlin (FG), sought to criticise the Bill and advance the interests of the alcohol industry.
Their contribution held no perspective, or concern, for the damage alcohol is causing within their communities; their contribution had no expression of solidarity or commitment to address the utterly avoidable crisis of our harmful relationship with alcohol. In fact, Assistant Whip, Deputy McLoughlin, suggested that his own government’s initiative was ‘crazy’ and ‘went too far’.
This year in Sligo-Leitrim it is likely that 25 people will die from alcohol related harm; 1,400 children will commence, all too early, what the business interests like to call ‘life-time drinking’, meantime Sligo University Hospital, and its dedicated staff, will grapple everyday with the carnage of alcohol’s consequences in a chaotic Emergency Department and have over 10% of its beds occupied by those who are battling alcohol related illnesses.
Over 1,100 young adults in Sligo-Leitrim this week will contribute to the fact that Ireland has the highest rate of binge drinking in the EU, while over 32,000 people will continue their harmful relationship with alcohol.
And what did our representatives have to say about this crisis in our communities? Nothing; no concern, no interest. Deputies Scanlon and McLoughlin’s only concern was for the alcohol industry and its private interests.
Amongst many inaccurate insights, Deputy McLoughlin commented on the ‘unnecessary’ labelling measures that are ‘somewhat excessive’ for ensuring citizens might be informed about what they consume.
Commenting on Deputy McLoughlin’s assertion, Eunan McKinney, Head of Communication and Advocacy at Alcohol Action Ireland said, ‘The consumer’s right to know, seemingly must come second to the profit demands of the alcohol industry and its representative, a local distiller, who seemingly refuses to inform customers of what is contained within its product yet has no difficulty with fulfilling the labelling requirement for US exports, which must carry a health warning from the Surgeon General or indeed, the Israeli authorities, who insist in all instances, Hebrew is used.’ ‘Citizens must have to right to know; advancing public health awareness and an appreciation of what we consume, can only be achieved when consumers are accurately informed. What is it that alcohol producers are afraid to tell us?’
The legislative process for the Public Health Alcohol Bill commenced in Seanad Éireann in December 2015. It is anticipated, given cross party support, that the Bill may pass all stages prior to the Summer Recess 2018.
The Bill contains a range of measures designed to work together to reduce alcohol consumption in Ireland so reducing alcohol related harm. It will protect children, families and communities from alcohol related harms and create an environment that supports a low risk approach to individual consumption.